Setting the foundation for improved access to primary care

In 2013, the Government of BC and Doctors of BC embarked on A GP for Me, a provincial Initiative that aimed to improve patient access to primary care in British Columbia. A GP for Me ended as a separate program on March 31, 2016, with its achievements forming part of the ongoing integrated approach to improving access to primary care.

Starting in 2014, more than 3,000 family doctors and 33 Divisions of Family Practice from across BC began work to increase their capacity to take on new patients, better support vulnerable patients, and strengthen GP relationships with patients (also called ‘attachment’).

In addition to doctors working to improve the efficiency of their offices, divisions from across the province initiated more than 150 projects to improve local primary care. They worked with partners in their communities to recruit and retain physicians, enhance team-based care, develop systems to connect patients with GPs, and deliver public education.

These combined efforts resulted in significant, positive benefits for patients across BC. When measured to March 31, 2016, the impacts of A GP for Me included:

  • 178,000 people who did not have a family doctor were able to get a GP.
  • More than 116,000 complex and high need patients were attached to GPs. (Some of those were included in the 178,000 above.)
  • 416 new physicians came to BC communities to take on new patients, take over from other GPs, provide temporary locum relief, or assume other roles.
  • 130,000 patients were transferred from a retiring or relocating physician to a new family physician.
  • 101 allied health professionals such as nurses, social workers, and mental health professionals began working with GPs in team-based care models to support patients, which also enabled GPs to maximize time for patients.
  • More flexible care, like telephone appointments and telehealth were introduced to broaden access for hard-to-reach patients.

The full benefits of A GP for Me will take longer to be fully realized, as changes and improvements continue to take effect over time.

Although funding for the implementation of this work ended in March 31, 2016, A GP for Me set a strong foundation for continued improvements and patient benefits moving forward, to ensure that even more British Columbians have access to continuous, quality primary care.

Foundation for the Future

Family doctors, divisions, their local partners and health authorities are building on the achievements they established through A GP for Me.

In addition to positively impacting patients’ lives, their work in A GP for Me established a foundation for the next phase of health system redesign in BC. A GP for Me:

  • provided important new insights into primary care challenges experienced in local communities and among patient groups for future planning;
  • demonstrated widespread physician leadership and brought together hundreds of new partnerships not seen before to tackle the challenges in primary care on an ongoing basis; and
  • invested in lasting improvements, new models of primary care, and innovations that can continue to expand and move the system forward.

Thanks to A GP for Me, local, regional and provincial partners are now taking important steps to build an integrated system of care and a model of family practice defined by attributes of the patient medical home in BC. Ultimately, it is all leading to stronger, more accessible, primary care for British Columbians.